Saskatoon mother Jessica Lane has been down the online schooling route with her nine-year-old son Noah, and she doesn’t want to go back.
She’s concerned about calls from the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) to implement remote learning for Saskatoon and area given the COVID-19 situation, particularly variants of concern.
When Noah had to go into isolation after a classmate tested positive, Jessica said he couldn’t stay awake and focus for online lessons.
“He struggled a lot. He wasn’t able to pay attention and I basically had to sit with him through the whole class,” Jessica said.
As a solo parent, Jessica said going back to online learning would be hard on her mental health, and the mental health of her two kids.
On Thursday, the STF called for Saskatoon Public Schools, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) and the Prairie Spirit School Division to change to remote learning. As of Friday morning, none of the divisions announced plans to do so. There were 45 active COVID-19 cases among the 57,000 students and 6,000 staff across the three divisions.
STF president Patrick Maze told Global News, he understands mental health concerns among children, parents and teachers, but online classes are the safest approach.
He pointed to the deaths of a longtime Prince Albert teacher and an educational assistant in Moose Jaw as examples of how school staff can become infected and “pay the ultimate price for it.”
“Your physical health right now takes priority to your mental health,” Maze said.
Saskatchewan health officials said there were 468 active cases of COVID-19 in the Saskatoon area on Friday.
Maze said schools are better off preventing the spread, rather than making adjustments after the novel coronavirus arrives at a school.
He used the analogy of a burning house.
“Do you want to sit and talk about your feelings and how you’re feeling a little bit depressed and you’re in a bit of a funk right now, or do you want to get the hell out of the house?” Maze asked.
Spokespeople for Saskatoon Public, Saskatoon Catholic and Prairie Spirit all stated any changes to teaching formats would happen in consultation with local public health officials.
“The process (the Saskatchewan Health Authority) has established to isolate classes/cohorts appears to be working to limit spread of the virus in schools,” said GSCS spokesperson Derrick Kunz in an email.
On Friday, Nutana Collegiate began remote learning due to the presence of three positive cases, included two identified as variants of concern. In-class instruction is expected to resume on May 10.